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Analysis: Miami thriving late in games?

Following Miami’s painful struggles late in games earlier this season, the RedHawks have now pulled off back-to-wins in the closing minutes.

The RedHawks beat No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha, 3-1 at Baxter Arena on Friday, thanks largely to senior defenseman Matthew Caito’s one-timer that put MU ahead for good with 2:03 left.

Miami also beat Bowling Green on Oxford last weekend on a marker by senior forward Anthony Louis in the final seconds.

This game was payback for earlier in the season when the Mavericks stole four points from the RedHawks in the Oxford series. A third-period goal helped UNO earn a tie in the first game of that set, and Nebraska-Omaha took the finale in overtime.

Coming out on the wrong side numerous times in the first half of this campaign had two possible outcomes: 1) Crash and burn, let’s try it again next fall, or 2) get stronger, learn how to deal with those situations and start winning.

At least in the last seven days, Miami looks like it has chosen the latter.

It’s obvious 22 games into this season that this isn’t the 2007-08 RedHawks in terms of talent, or even the 2014-15 team. Miami clearly doesn’t have that kind of offensive firepower.

But there’s still plenty of talent there, and the freshmen development – Ryan Siroky, Kiefer Sherwood, Josh Melnick, Grant Hutton, Zach LaValle – has been steady. Jack Roslovic needs to get going again, but he is likely the most talented of all the RedHawks and the smart money is on him heating up again soon.

Anthony Louis is doing his annual getting-hot-in-the-second-half thing. Sean Kuraly looks so much better than he did in October when he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Alex Gacek is having his best season, and it’s fun to watch his supersonic speed.

The defense is so good that poor Colin Sullivan – a top six on almost every team in Division I – can’t get into the lineup consistently. Scott Dornbrock, who was maybe the No. 5 or 6 blueliner coming in, has been a rock the last few games, and the three seniors on that corps are playing like Miami seniors should.

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Jay Williams

And let’s not discount goaltending. Since the Ryan McKay meltdown, Jay Williams is 2-0 with a 0.80 goals-against average and a .968 save percentage.

Not piling on McKay, but all along it looked like this team needed something to fire it up. Perhaps in some way that was it. College seniors like Williams who are in the final stretch run of their amateur careers can do amazing things when given the opportunity.

Miami will need to win a lot more games like this: Low-scoring, tight-checking contests against top 10 teams. But for two games at least, the RedHawks appear up for the challenge, and there is still plenty of time for them to get back into NCAA Tournament contention.

Other thoughts…

– 76 faceoffs. Yikes. The officials probably have sore jaws from using their whistles. Still too many off-sides and icing violations for late January, and Miami won less than half of those draws.

– Overall, Miami has been much better in the third period in recent games. In their last six contests, the RedHawks have outscored opponents, 7-3 in the final stanza.

– Speaking of officiating, it was pretty bad both ways. The penalties were inconsistent, and even the announcers were stunned that Zach LaValle’s goal was overturned. For those who didn’t see, LaValle backhanded a loose puck after UNO goalie Zach Blankenburg made an initial save. Blankenburg was sprawled out, and LaValle grazed him with his skate as he addressed the puck, but the goalie was in no way interfered with.

– But Miami kept up the surge in that second period, outshooting the Mavericks, 15-6 after an evenly-played, slow-paced first frame.

– This game was nationally broadcast on CBS College Sports, but for a brand-new arena that looked beautiful, the in-game camera was way too far away, making it difficult to follow the puck at times even in HD.

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Star Man

– While Ben Holden and the Starmen do a great job with all college hockey broadcasts – this one being no exception – the lovefest for Austin Ortega was Pat Cannone-esque over the top. And their nickname of California Hot Sauce is a stretch at best. Actually, isn’t the Ortega brand best known for its taco sauce?

– Apparently Miami has truly reached the big time, as play-by-play announcer Greg Waddell was picked up from the Omaha airport via limo.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B-. Not a fan of the Roslovic-Justin Greenberg-Sherwood line combination, although it did produce the first goal. For the most part, there’s no chemistry between the trio, and Sherwood scored after seizing a loose puck caused by Greenberg absorbing a hit, which while a good hockey play has nothing to do with players jelling.

Miami's Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Roslovic is too good to have his offensive prowess stifled and needs to play on a line that enhances his game instead of hindering it. Liking the Louis-Melnick-Gacek line though. Louis was everywhere in this game, and Melnick had one of his best efforts in recent history as well. Bottom line: They generated two goals – should’ve been three with LaValle’s shot – and one was an empty netter. But the effort was solid, and this corps should be able to continue building from this game.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Caito’s game winner was the biggest play of the game. Hutton and Dornbrock stepped up in this one, and the rest of this group played at its usual high level. The double minor to Chris Joyaux did lead to UNO’s lone goal, although the case could’ve been made that it should’ve been coincidentals after the retaliation slashes Joyaux too. But still, this Mavericks team is too potent to get five power plays.

GOALTENDING: A+. Here’s where the game was won. Williams stopped 27 of 28 shots, and the one that got by was a rip by one of the top scorers in college hockey on a one-timer off a pass through the slot on the power play. Williams had no chance on it. He made the save of the year with his glove in the first period off a one-timer from right on the doorstep in the first period, shut down another excellent chance off a passing play through the offensive zone and made a big stop after Miami had taken the lead to preserve the win. With Miami’s lack of offense, the pressure on Williams must be intense, and he has stepped up the challenge back-to-back games.

LINEUP CHANGES: None. This is about the time of year that Coach Enrico Blasi likes to settle on 18 skaters and stick with it for the most part, and it looks like this is the group he likes for the stretch run. Michael Mooney and Colin Sullivan were scratched for the second straight game, and Devin Loe has not dressed in any of the last four. Ryan McKay also sat again, as third goalie Evan McCarthy remained in the active backup role for the second consecutive tilt.

Late goal lifts Miami over No. 7 UNO

Miami’s power play could not have picked a better time to break out of its funk.

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Matthew Caito (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Senior defenseman Matthew Caito ripped home the decisive goal late in the third period as the RedHawks took down No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha, 3-1 at Baxter Arena on Friday.

The win snapped a seven-game road losing streak for Miami and vaulted the RedHawks into a tie for 23rd in the PairWise rankings, which determine qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

There was no flow in a first period that ended scoreless.

Early in the second period, Miami freshman forward Zach LaValle appeared to open the scoring with a behind-the-back backhand that slid into the net. It was ruled a goal on the ice but was reversed by the officials, claiming LaValle interfered with the goaltender.

But the RedHawks (8-11-3) kept the pressure on, and classmate and fellow forward Kiefer Sherwood bounced off a defender, seized the puck and whipped a wrister home from the slot after skating in from along the boards with 6:13 left in the middle frame.

The Mavericks (15-7-1) tied it 3:32 into the third period when a wide-open Austin Ortega ripped a one-timer into the net off a pass through the crease.

Miami junior forward Anthony Louis won a battle along the boards with a strong stick, skated to the side of the net and threaded a pass through the slot to the top of the opposite faceoff circle, where Caito blasted the go-ahead goal into the top of the net with 2:03 left.

Senior forward Kevin Morris added an empty netter with 27 seconds remaining to cap the scoring.

Caito finished with a goal and an assists, and senior goalie Jay Williams stopped 27 shots, including a grade-A chance on a one-timer from point-blank range, to earn his third straight win and the RedHawks’ second overall as well.

Louis now has four points in his last three games (1-3-4), and freshman Josh Melnick also has a three-game point streak, picking up a helper in each.

MU entered this game 1-for-20 in its last eight games on the man advantage.

The RedHawks moved to within a point of Western Michigan for sixth place in the NCHC standings and are three back of the Mavericks, meaning Miami could catch UNO with a win in Game 2 of the road set.

The teams wrap up the series in Omaha at 8:07 p.m. on Saturday.

Miami heads to Nebraska-Omaha

WHO: Miami RedHawks (7-11-3) at No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (15-6-1).

WHERE: Baxter Arena, Omaha, Neb..

WHEN: Friday–8:37 p.m.; Saturday–8:07 p.m.

TV: Friday–CBS College Sports (DirecTV Ch. 221); Saturday–None.

NEBRASKA-OMAHA RADIO: KZOT-AM (1180), Omaha, Neb..

MIAMI RADIO: WMOH-AM (1450), Hamilton, Ohio; WKBV-AM (1490), Richmond, Ind.

NOTES: Despite its impressive record, Nebraska-Omaha has lost three of four games, earning a split in North Dakota after getting swept in Denver.

The Mavericks are averaging 3.2 goals per game, thanks largely to the tandem of juniors Austin Ortega and Jake Guentzel.

Ortega is tied for fifth in college hockey with 17 goals, including seven game winners, and Guentzel in tops in the NCHC with points (11-21-32) and has a plus-17 rating.

Justin Parizek and Jake Randolph have added ample secondary scoring, with 21 and 20 points, respectively.

Evan Weninger is having an outstanding year in net for UNO, posting a .942 save percentage to go along with a 1.99 goals-against average in 12 games.

However, Miami could catch a break, as his status is uncertain after suffering an ankle injury. He did not make the trip to North Dakota last weekend.

Kirk Thompson has a 2.93 GAA and a save percentage of .881.

Speaking of goalie issues, the RedHawks’ netminding situation is also unclear after senior Ryan McKay was scratched last weekend. Senior Jay Williams was very good last week in a win over Bowling Green and should play at least one game this weekend.

Miami enters this weekend six points behind the fifth-place Mavericks in the NCHC standings.

When these teams met earlier this season in Oxford, UNO went 1-0-1, thanks to some late heroics, including an overtime winner in the finale.

Photos: Nebraska-Omaha at Miami

Images from the series played at Cady Arena in Oxford on Nov. 20-21, 2015. All photos by Cathy Lachmann.

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Analysis: Uphill NCHC climb ahead for Miami

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami seemed to find every conceivable way to record non-wins the last two weekends.

The RedHawks got blown out, then gave up the tying goal in the closing minutes and the winner in overtime last weekend. Friday it was a mid-third period goal against that ultimately induced a tie, and Saturday another overtime winner allowed in a 3-2 loss to Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena.

Quick thoughts and observations on the finale and then we’ll look ahead, since the can’t-close-out-wins angle has been beaten to death, both on the ice and in writing here.

– One has to feel back for sophomore defenseman Scott Dornbrock, who played so well all weekend before the somewhat unlucky decisive goal in OT went in after he couldn’t hold the puck in the zone and got beaten the outside. Whether he should’ve played that more conservatively or not, he didn’t deserve that fate to end the weekend.

– Once again, Miami looked solid overall but didn’t do enough to win. The problem on this night was finishing, which has been a recurring problem. Sometimes the puck just won’t find the net, but when it happens on many nights it makes one question the team’s shooting accuracy.

– Preface by saying UNO found a way to earn the tie Friday and the win Saturday, the following is in no way a sour grapes commentary, but the officiating was flat-out brutal this weekend, especially the finale. Sean Kuraly was assessed a boarding major that resulted in the second Mavericks goal, and no one in the building thought it warranted five minutes. The linesman actually made that call, which neither referee saw or thought was worthy of a penalty, which makes that even tougher to stomach. Defenseman Louie Belpedio was assessed a tripping penalty for a legal check, and many obvious called against both teams were missed while other non-calls were whistled. And let’s not get Josh Melnick getting called for breathing on a player in the first minute of overtime. Most fans thought we had seen the last of Brian Aaron when the CCHA folded, but there he was in Oxford this weekend, blowing call after call again.

– On a more positive note, Anthony Louis and Kiefer Sherwood scored the RedHawks’ goals and are starting to pile up points. Louis always seems to start slowly before lighting up the scoresheet the second half of the season, and Sherwood’s 2014-15 USHL campaign indicates good things are ahead for the freshman, who is getting better every game and is becoming an exciting player to watch. Seeing players improve is one of the biggest thrills of watching a college hockey team regularly, and his evolution is fun to witness.

Now a look at where Miami goes from here. Physically, the RedHawks go to Colorado College, which is 0-12, for a two-game series in two weeks.

The term ‘must-win games’ is way overused, and that’s not really the case here, but a sweep of those contests and the resulting six points would be extremely helpful in getting the team back on track. Anything less and Miami will head into 2016 below .500 and likely in the bottom half of the NCHC standings with every other league team having games in hand over the RedHawks.

The latter part of the last sentence is important: Miami has logged eight league games. Everyone else has played six except Denver, which has just four in the books. Tied for fifth with 8 of 24 possible points is bad enough, and now the RedHawks will play CC in two weeks then just two more NCHC games until Jan. 22.

Some context: Last season it took 41 points to earn home-ice advantage for the NCHC Tournament and 50 to win the Penrose – the No. 1 seed and a home date with Colorado College in the first round.

Miami has eight points in eight games and would need 33 more to reach the 2014-15 threshold for home-ice. That’s 11-5 or the equivalent in tie/3-on-3/shootout points against a murderer’s row conference schedule.

Doable? Certainly. Uphill climb. Certainly again.

To reach 50 it would take a 14-2 finish. Not happening. And that’s a knock on Miami, more of a statement about how tough it is to almost run the table in this league, even for a top-five team, which the RedHawks are not at this point.

The good news: The toughest series are over. No more North Dakota and Miami already played at St. Cloud State. SCSU does come to Oxford, and the RedHawks go to UNO in late January, but the other NCHC games remaining for MU are two at home vs. Denver, two at Western Michigan and four each vs. Colorado College and a Minnesota-Duluth team that is 5-5-3 with a losing NCHC record.

To simplify: Miami needs to start winning games consistently.

GRADES

FORWARDS: C. Thirty-two shots overall – 25 by this group – is pretty good, especially considering Miami was shorthanded for over 14 minutes, but the finishing thing has become a major concern. The goals were both great, and overall this corps played well defensively, but it’s really time to start scoring goals. Louis became the third Miami forward to score his third goal this season in this game, and we’re 14 games into the season.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Miami held UNO to 25 shots, and the first two goals were not at all on this group. Another workmanlike effort from the D-corps.

GOALTENDING: C+. It was sort of a similar game to Friday for Ryan McKay – one bad goal (the first one, off a huge rebound) and a solid showing otherwise against not a lot of high-percentage shots. It was another contest in which he certainly didn’t lose the game for Miami, but he didn’t win it either.

Miami defenseman Colin Sullivan (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami defenseman Colin Sullivan (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

LINEUP CHANGES: It was the same 19 as Friday. Forward Zach LaValle was still out of the lineup with a presumed upper-body injured, forward Michael Mooney was scratched, and defenseman Colin Sullivan sat again. Two thoughts: 1) Can Sullivan play forward? He’s super experienced at the college level, and let’s face it: After the top two lines there’s not much offensive contribution anyway (someone else credible mentioned the possibility this weekend). With seven talented defensemen, it’s tough to decide who sits each night, but you hate to see someone who would be in the lineup every night for 80 percent of NCAA team benched for long stretches. And 2) the smart money is on Jay Williams seeing a game in net in two weeks since McKay seems to play better when he doesn’t play numerous consecutive games and the games in two weeks will be at a high altitude.

Miami drops final ’15 home game to UNO

OXFORD, Ohio – One-goal games decided late continue to haunt Miami.

The RedHawks lost their second overtime game in eight days as they fell, 3-2 to Nebraska-Omaha at Cady Arena on Saturday.

Miami also settled for a tie on Friday despite leading the first half of the third period.

The loss snapped the RedHawks’ five-game unbeaten streak and sent them to a season-worst two games below .500.

Miami never led in the series finale, and the Mavericks jumped on the board just eight-plus minutes into the game. A David Pope rip from the top of the left faceoff circle was stopped by RedHawks senior goalie Ryan McKay, but the rebound came to the opposite side, and Austin Ortega slammed it home.

After a major penalty was assessed to Miami senior center Sean Kuraly, Brian Cooper intercepted a clearing attempt by senior forward Kevin Morris and banged it home 3:51 into the middle frame, making it 2-0.

The RedHawks battled back with a pair of late goals in the second period to tie it.

Miami forward Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Anthony Louis (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Junior center Anthony Louis backhanded one top shelf from the slot with 3:42 left in that stanza, and freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood ripped a shot just under the crossbar with 43 seconds left to even it heading into the second intermission.

But after a bouncing puck eluded Miami sophomore defenseman Scott Dornbrock at the blue line, UNO’s Tyler Vesel skated around Dornbrock and fed Jake Rudolph for the game winner with 1:46 left in overtime.

The RedHawks are now 0-2 in the extra session this season.

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami forward Kiefer Sherwood (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Louis finished with a goal – his third in five games and his second in of the weekend – and an assist, giving him seven points in six games (3-4-7). Sherwood ended the weekend with a goal and two helpers, both of which came on Friday.

UNO spent over 14 minutes on the power play, compared to seven for Miami.

The RedHawks are now tied with Minnesota-Duluth for fifth place in the NCHC with eight points, and Miami has played more league games than any team in the conference (8).

This was the final home game of the calendar year for Miami, which is off next weekend and wraps up its 2015 schedule with a pair of games at Colorado College on Dec. 4-5.

Analysis: League points slipping away

NOTE: My apologies on not writing about the recent away games. The truth is with high school football on Fridays and Saturdays and excruciating early Sunday hours, I missed the St. Cloud and North Dakota series. With preps winding down I’ll be able to watch the team on the road the remainder of the season.

OXFORD, Ohio – Four league points have escaped Miami in its last two games because of three third period and overtime goals against.

Obviously that is a troubling trend, as the RedHawks and No. 6 Nebraska-Omaha played to a 3-3 tie at Cady Arena on Friday, although Miami did manage to pick up a second point with a 3-on-3 goal by sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio.

Last Saturday, the RedHawks led late but surrendered an extra-attacker goal and another in overtime in a 4-3 loss at North Dakota.

Disturbing is that this is a veteran team, especially on the back end. Miami’s goalies are both seniors, and its defensemen are senior-senior-senior-junior-sophomore-sophomore-freshman.

The forwards are admittedly young, but are the freshmen up front really the root of this team’s inability to close out games, or for that matter the RedHawks’ sub-.500 start?

Miami's Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Jack Roslovic (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Jack Roslovic and Josh Melnick are the only two consistent scorers on this team right now, and the other regular rookies in the lineup are Ryan Siroky, Kiefer Sherwood and Zach LaValle, none of which have been a burden to Miami’s lineup and all look like candidates to have solid careers in Oxford.

Roslovic does carry the puck too much and the results sometimes aren’t good, but he’s 18 and he has eight of the team’s 28 goals this season, so the gain of him in the lineup is still a major positive (to further that point, he and Melnick have 13 of the team’s goals, nearly half).

Lack of scoring was a major factor the first 11 games – still is overall – but the RedHawks scored three goals in their last two games and have an 0-1-1 record to show for it.

The frustrating thing is that it hasn’t been a consistent weak link – poor goaltending, a shallow defense pool, forwards that don’t play both ways, a meager penalty kill, etc. (Miami has been good overall in all of those areas) – but the past two games, opponents are making big plays and Miami isn’t.

I’m sure I’m in the minority, but a 6-2 loss last Friday at North Dakota bothers me a lot less than a 4-3 overtime loss the next night or a blown late lead again this Friday.

Teams have bad nights, heck look at Western Michigan’s 11-1 loss at St. Cloud State last week. But the Broncos beat this UNO team twice on the road days before.

In a league as competitive as the NCHC, it’s the close games that are so important, and losing points the way Miami has is tough to watch, especially with a team like the RedHawks that everyone knew was going to depend on a veteran presence on defense and in net, meaning lots of low-scoring close games.

Miami did a solid job of winning those tight games against WMU two weeks ago, but against stiffer competition its last two games, the RedHawks have not measured up in the clutch.

The result: Four lost points in those contests.

Really it’s been a six-year trend, Miami snatching defeat from the jaws of victory too many times, and on a team that will play in a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games the rest of this season, it just can’t afford to lose 4-3 the way it has the last two games.

Other thoughts…

The ultimate result was a tie on Friday, but the RedHawks played very well overall (maybe not so much the third period) against one of the best teams in college hockey.

Sean Kuraly didn’t score but looked a lot more confident than he had earlier in the season.

Like Kuraly, Belpedio has not played his best to start 2015-16 but was impressive in this game.

Grant Hutton is really stepping into the shut-down defenseman role.

Sherwood seems to get better every game.

The Crash Cousins were entertaining to watch, throwing around their combined 500 pounds of muscle.

Taylor Richart, Chris Joyaux and Matthew Caito are playing their best hockey on the blue line in their senior seasons.

Miami defenseman Scott Dornbrock (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami defenseman Scott Dornbrock (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Defenseman Scott Dornbrock played arguably his best game of the season.

The cliché about the process vs. the result should not be ignored, but still the process and simply playing well don’t earn teams NCAA Tournament berths, so Miami needs to still evolve and also win more.

– How about the power play? The RedHawks are 7-for-17 on the man advantage their last five games with at least one PPG in each. That’s even more impressive considering the caliber of Miami’s recent opponents and how young its top unit is. Actually both units. The RedHawks are now 24.0 percent on the power play.

– The PK is now 44 of 46 (95.7 percent) after another shut-down effort last night.

– So if Miami has an offense problem and has 12 power play goals, that must mean the team isn’t scoring at even strength. The RedHawks have 16 even-strength goals in 13 games, or 1.23 per contest. That’s really dreadful.

– Really hate to play the Debbie Downer role, but Miami celebrated the goal that isn’t really a goal by Belpedio as if it had won the Stanley Cup when in reality that goal likely means absolutely nothing. That is, unless the RedHawks move up a seed because of a one-point difference in the conference standings (in the bizarre coincidence department, the only two teams that finished a point apart in the NCHC standings last season were Miami and UNO, with the RedHawks taking the two seed by a point over the Mavericks).

One more time: It was a tie. And when a team is a game below .500 like Miami is and has a chance to beat one of the best teams in college hockey but squanders a late lead, it’s not a good night.

And really the overwhelming majority of fans just don’t get it, and while the 3-on-3 is great, minimizing shootouts is great (I would argue eliminate them, but that’s for another time), both are confusing and ultimately pointless from a standings perspective, no pun intended.

I get where the league was going with this, I really do, and it’s an admirable goal to have a winner and a loser each night. But when the extra action has so little meaning and confuses fans, it isn’t worth it.

So to recap: Belpedio scored but doesn’t get credit for a goal, Miami won the 3-on-3 but is credited with a tie (the scoreboard operator doesn’t get it either – erroneously listing the score as ‘4-3’ after Miami’s ‘goal’) and the RedHawks get an extra point in the league standings which has no impact on the infinitely more important NCAA record. Got that?

While uptown briefly last night multiple people saw our Miami hockey gear and asked what the RedHawks did. There was no way to explain this without confusing people. Hockey is already a tough enough game to pick up for the casual fan. The well-intentioned NCHC has made it even tougher.

In a perfect world, the NCAA would adopt the NCHC’s model so that post first-overtime play would have real meaning, but that body has made it clear that it does want games to deviate from 5-on-5 action at any point to decide games.

GRADES

FORWARDS: B. Grades for all positions were tough to give in this game, since overall the team played very well but the result was a tie. Pretty much everything that needed to be said about this group was mentioned above.

DEFENSEMEN: B. Caito had a sweet goal and almost set up another, except Roslovic fanned on a cross-crease pass. Dornbrock really took a step forward, and Belpedio looked like Version 2014-15, which is a major compliment. This corps held UNO to 25 shots and recorded a goal of its own. Good effort by this group.

GOALTENDING: C-. Ryan McKay probably should’ve had the third goal, and he didn’t face a ton of difficult shots, other than the two that went in prior.

LINEUP CHANGES: LaValle is out with a suspected upper-body injury, and it’s unclear how long he’ll be out. Junior Devin Loe took his place in this game. Colin Sullivan was once again the odd man out on defense, sitting for the fourth time in five games.

Miami allows late goal, ties UNO

OXFORD, Ohio – For the second straight game, Miami held a late lead but was unable to close out a win.

At least this time the RedHawks salvaged a tie.

Miami and No. 6 Nebraska-Omaha skated to a 3-3 tie at Cady Arena on Friday, as the Mavericks’ Austin Ortega scored the decisive goal with 10:10 remaining to force overtime and the eventual stalemate.

RedHawks sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio scored early in the second overtime which earned Miami a second point out of a possible three in the NCHC standings.

In its last game, MU squandered a 3-2 lead in the closing minutes and ended up collecting zero points after allowing the winning goal in overtime at North Dakota.

The game was scoreless after one period, but five of the game’s six goals were netted in the middle frame.

A rebound shot by Fredrik Olofsson opened the scoring 47 seconds into the second stanza, giving the Mavericks the lead.

Miami freshman forward Josh Melnick centered a pass from behind the boards to junior forward Anthony Louis, who beat goalie Kirk Thompson 3:22 into the period.

Tyler Vesel put UNO ahead shorthanded just two minutes later, and RedHawks senior defenseman Matthew Caito wired a shot through traffic from the blue line on the same Miami power play 27 seconds after the Mavericks’ go-ahead goal to tie it at two.

Miami's Jack Roslovic celebrates his go-ahead goal late in the second period (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

Miami’s Jack Roslovic celebrates his go-ahead goal late in the second period (photo by Cathy Lachmann).

RedHawks freshman forward Jack Roslovic slammed home a bad-angle shot from the side of the net to give Miami its only lead of the game, 3-2 at the end of a power play with 2:35 remaining in the middle period.

But Ortega’s equalizer extended the RedHawks’ winless streak to three games.

Miami did end up with several excellent scoring chances in overtime, but Thompson shut the door each time.

Roslovic ended up with a goal and an assist, his third straight two-point game, and freshman forward Kiefer Sherwood picked up a pair of helpers. Melnick has also recorded points in three consecutive contests (2-2-4).

The RedHawks are in fourth place in the NCHC with eight points but has logged more conference games than any other team in the league (7). Miami did extend its home unbeaten streak to five games (3-0-2).

The series finale is at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday as the RedHawks play their final home game of 2015.

#4 Miami 8, #12 Nebraska-Omaha 2

Thoughts after last night’s 8-2 whipping of #12 Omaha.

Overall, it was a thorough beat down as Miami rattled off seven consecutive goals after actually surrendering the first goal of the game just 4:14 in. Six different RedHawks combined for the 8 goals with senior Cody Murphy notching a natural hat trick (3 consecutive goals) while Kevin Morris, Matthew Caito and Michael Mooney found the net for the first time this season. For Mooney, it was his first career goal, shorthanded, while the Omaha net was mysteriously vacated by Omaha head coach Dean Blais, despite trailing 7-2. Bit of a bush league move if you ask us. Senior captain Austin Czarnik recorded four assists, including his 100th and gave up an opportunity to record his first goal of the season when he passed the puck to Mooney on a 2-on-1 break. On the year, Czarnik has a 0-16-16 line in what can only be described as a bizarre start to his senior season.

Miami captain, Austin Czarnik, is now 13th on the RedHawks all-time scoring list. (photo: Miami University)

Thinking more about Czarnik’s scoring line, I wonder if it’s something having to do with last season when this team seemed to be all about individuals rather than the greater good. I wonder if it’s a sign of maturity as a leader on this club that Czarnik isn’t trying to do to much. That he’s more comfortable with the ‘C’ on his sweater? While I still have some leadership concerns with the ‘C’ I think the formal addition of Sean Kuraly and Blake Coleman as assistant captains was an appropriate move.

Coleman was a bit out of his mind last night, but you have to like the combination of skill and snarl he brings. He’s tough to play against and will make his presence known to the opposition when he doesn’t like something.

Other thoughts and notes:

Depth: This team has it. It didn’t last year. I believe Tim Bray said 14 Miami skaters have tallied goals this year and that, amazingly, does NOT include senior captain Austin Czarnik who entered 2014-15 with 37 career goals.

Goaltending: Jay Williams was good, not great last night. I’m sure he’d like to have the first goal back scored off an ugly rebound of a harmless point wrist shot that hit him square in the chest. But, with this offense (and really any offense), two goals or less should get a W and Williams now has 11 of them this year. Those 11 wins are just one short of his career high set his freshman year, the last year of existence for the CCHA. Despite his success, I could see Miami head coach Enrico Blasi give Ryan McKay a start tonight since he hasn’t played in a few weeks. However, this is another important league game. I’d rather see Williams again tonight and then give McKay a start in the Florida College Hockey Classic on either December 28 or 29. There’s certainly no fatigue issue with Williams, or shouldn’t be, because Miami is coming off a bye week, and will have two off-weeks for exams and Christmas before heading south.

Attendance: 2,006? For a matchup of top-15 top-12 squads? I really don’t know what’s going on in the SW Ohio area. The Reds don’t draw. The Bengals don’t draw. And now, Miami hockey doesn’t draw.

Admittedly, I live in Denver and my partner-in-crime Miamibeef04 lives in Columbus. However, Beef was there last night making the two hour drive south. Just because it’s no longer Michigan and Ohio State is no reason that building isn’t full. Here’s a rundown of Miami’s home attendance this year. Because capacity has never really been settled — is it 3,200? 3,642? 4,000? — I’m going with 3,200 to qualify as a sellout.

vs. Bowling Green – 1,860

vs. Ohio State – 3,554 (sellout)

vs. St. Lawrence – 2,589 and 2,663

vs. Colorado College – 3,153 (sellout) and 2,878

vs. Western Michigan – 2,633 and 2,470

Frankly, this is pathetic. You have a top-5 team again. It was one bad season last year. That there aren’t at least 3,000 butts in seats (seriously, it’s not a big building to fill) each night is embarrassing. I don’t want to hear about the new seat licenses, though surely that hasn’t helped. Tickets are available. If you don’t want your season tickets anymore, fine. Walk up and buy a ticket. Good seats still available.

I can guarantee you I will be at Magness Arena here in Denver and World Arena in Colorado Springs when Miami visits the Centennial State twice in February.

Get to the games, people!

Highlights: Here is a link to the highlights from last night courtesy of NCHC.tv

http://www.nchc.tv/omaha/video/omaha-miami-vs-omaha-highlights—12-5-14

And, check out John Lachmann’s analysis at http://www.wcpo.com/sports/redhawkey

Tonight: Miami and Omaha will complete their NCHC weekend series, and the season’s series, tonight at 7:05 PM at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford.

#4 Miami vs. #12 Nebraska-Omaha

Miami captain Austin Czarnik hopes to have more success this season than last against Ryan Massa and Nebraska-Omaha. (Michelle Bishop, USCHO.com)

After a week off following a sweep of Western Michigan, the #4/5 Miami RedHawks (10-4, 6-2 1st NCHC) prepare to face another ranked NCHC team as Dean Blais and the #12/13 Mavericks of Nebraska-Omaha visit Oxford for a two game series. To date, six of Miami’s first eight opponents are either currently ranked, or were when the RedHawks played them awarding MU the 5th toughest schedule in the country.

And, if that weren’t enough, this weekend’s series against Omaha (7-3-2, 3-2-1-1 4th NCHC) is huge in more than one way.

First, six NCHC league points are on the line.

Second, Miami owes the Mavericks for putting a line of 0-3-1 on the RedHawks last season as UNO owned Miami, especially in Omaha where I had the displeasure of watching both whippings live and in person.

Lastly, Omaha is just above Miami in the PairWise rankings checking in at #3 while the RedHawks currently rank #4 in the all-important table that largely determines the participants in the national tournament at the conclusion of the regular season.

Simply put, this is a monster series to conclude the first half of the conference season.

The Series

This is a rekindling of an old CCHA rivalry as Miami and Omaha are once again conference mates with the formation of the NCHC after college hockey’s realignment. Overall, Miami has had success against the Mavericks going 17-10-4 but are a dismal 0-4-1 in the last five against them.

The Coach

Dean Blais brings his Omaha Mavericks to Oxford to battle Miami. (Omaha.com)

Thinking about Miami’s recent run of poor play against Omaha, it certainly corresponds with the arrival of legendary head coach Dean Blais. Blais, who coached North Dakota for 10 seasons guiding the green and white to two national championships before departing for the CBJ of the NHL, has also led Team USA to World Junior Championship gold in 2010 and will once again wear the red, white and blue later this month as Team USA plays for the title in Canada — ironically the same country where Blais last struck gold for the US. Needless to say, the man can coach and has Omaha’s program pointed in the right direction.

The Team

Surprisingly, this team is built from the net out as senior goaltender Ryan Massa has been nothing short of outstanding so far. Massa, who entered 2014-15 having never had a GAA lower than 2.60, leads the NCHC with a ridiculous .943 save percentage and owns a minuscule 1.68 GAA. Of course, Miami can counter with junior Jay Williams, his 10-1 record, 1.56 GAA and .928 save percentage. What a goaltending battle we could have this weekend.

Offensively, the Mavs are led by uber-pest/sophomore Austin Ortega (5-8-13) and classmate Jake Guentzel (5-6-11). Ortega was particular chirpy following UNO’s 4-1 victory over UMD three weeks ago saying, “Tonight we were able to get up on the board; we really showed we’re a scoring team,” Ortega said. “Kind of sending a message to North Dakota that we can score on any goalie out there.” Um, of course, UND took four of six points from UNO last weekend in Grand Forks with the Mavericks securing a shootout win on Friday to avoid a series sweep. During the weekend, the Mavericks scored just four goals so it wasn’t like they were proving to be a true “scoring team.” We’ll see what happens this weekend against Miami’s 12th ranked scoring defense.

On the blueline, Omaha is powered by junior Brian Cooper (2-5-7) and Ian Brady (2-3-5). They aren’t flashy, but the team defense numbers speak for themselves as they are obviously helping Ryan Massa in a big way.

Overall, this is one of the smaller teams that Miami will face in NCHC play. I’d like to see them throw their combination of speed and size at Omaha to wear down the defense and make it very tough on smaller Maverick forwards like Ortega (5’8″ = Hobbit?), Guentzel, Dominic Zombo, Tyler Vesel and Jake Randolph who are all under six feet tall. Let’s get the Crash Cousins on the forecheck and Scott Dornbrock, and possibly, Colin Sullivan in our zone taking the body and making it hard to get to the scoring area, force turnovers and lead to transition opportunities.

Yeah, that’d be my approach if I were Miami head coach Enrico Blasi.

The Prediction

Omaha has been very good on the road this season going 5-1-2 so far. But, Miami is 7-1 at home. I think Miami owes Omaha a little “adjustment” and I really like how we match up against a younger, smaller opponent. I think we get some revenge this weekend.

Miami sweeps.